By Donny Weimar
Jesus is the bread of life (John 6:48) from who issues water springing up to eternal life (John 4:15). When He explains to the antagonistic Jews that they must eat His flesh and drink His blood He was speaking figuratively of His sacrificial death on the cross. The context must include John 6:47, “Verily, verily, I say unto you, He that believeth hath eternal life.” (ASV) Believing in Jesus takes hungering and thirsting for righteousness (Matthew 5:6). Jesus promises that such hunger is satisfied in Him. Notice in the following passage how believing in Jesus is the same as eating the bread of life, whom He is.
John 6:35-40 (ASV)
“Jesus said unto them. I am the bread of life: he that cometh to me shall not hunger, and he that believeth on me shall never thirst. 36 But I said unto you, that ye have seen me, and yet believe not. 37 All that which the Father giveth me shall come unto me; and him that cometh to me I will in no wise cast out. 38 For I am come down from heaven, not to do mine own will, but the will of him that sent me. 39 And this is the will of him that sent me, that of all that which he hath given me I should lose nothing, but should raise it up at the last day. 40 For this is the will of my Father, that every one that beholdeth the Son, and believeth on him, should have eternal life; and I will raise him up at the last day.”
Jesus is not literally a loaf of bread. This is figurative language that says Jesus is the source of eternal life. He gives sustenance to our souls. Back in John 6:11 Jesus fed a crowd of 5,000 people with bread and fishes to sustain their physical hunger. There is a bigger picture when we speak of Jesus being the bread from heaven. Think with me. Why did Jesus come to this world? Why was incarnated into flesh? Why was it important that He was crucified? To save us from ourselves, our sins, and from the gods of this world. Move with me to John 6:26-27.
” And when they found him on the other side of the sea, they said unto him, Rabbi, when camest thou hither? 26 Jesus answered them and said, Verily, verily, I say unto you, Ye seek me, not because ye saw signs, but because ye ate of the loaves, and were filled. 27 Work not for the food which perisheth, but for the food which abideth unto eternal life, which the Son of man shall give unto you: for him the Father, even God, hath sealed.”
There is a contrast between that which is physical and the spiritual breads. The physical bread Jesus gave to the massive crowd to satisfy temporal hunger. Spiritual bread is what Jesus is offering for eternal life. Ask yourself, what is God’s greatest desire for me? It’s a salvific relationship with Him. We need that kind of life-food, spiritual-life-food. Jesus said to the audience, “Jesus answered and said unto them, This is the work of God, that ye believe on him whom he hath sent.” (John 6:29) In a moment we are to read where Jesus a person must eat His flesh and drink His blood to be saved. As we go there, keep in mind what we looked at so far regarding belief and God’s goal is to save souls. Look at this passage from Revelation and consider if it sounds somewhat similar to John 6.
“They shall hunger no more, neither thirst any more; neither shall the sun strike upon them, nor any heat: 17 for the Lamb that is in the midst of the throne shall be their shepherd, and shall guide them unto fountains of waters of life: and God shall wipe away every tear from their eyes.” (Revelation 7:16-17)
Jesus is the Lamb, the sacrificial Lamb that takes away sin from the world. When John writes about Jesus saying, “For the bread of God is that which cometh down out of heaven, and giveth life unto the world,” He is telling us there is salvation for those who believe and submit to His Lordship. He came to give life. That’s the reason is figuratively referred to as the bread of life. Now we pick up with John 6:48-58.
“I am the bread of life” (John 6:48). Everything we’ve said has led up to that important verse. Physical, fleshly food of this world does not stop death (John 6:49). He who dines on the spiritual food that is found in Christ through faith will never tasted spiritual death – eternal separation from God. Carefully read verses 49, 50, “Your fathers ate the manna in the wilderness, and they died. This is the bread which cometh down out of heaven, that a man may eat thereof, and not die.” Notice the contrast. Physical bread cannot stop death. Therefore, to believe that communion bread and wine transforms into the literal body and bread is misleading. Not to chase a rabbit too far, but the communion isn’t even taught in John 6. It’s a mute subject that hasn’t been instituted yet at this point of the life of Christ. Thus, when Jesus says He is the bread of life He is telling us that He is the spiritual sustenance that provides eternal life to the soul. With this context in mind we make our final analysis in John 6.
John 6:52-58 (ASV)
“The Jews therefore strove one with another, saying, How can this man give us his flesh to eat? 53 Jesus therefore said unto them, Verily, verily, I say unto you, Except ye eat the flesh of the Son of man and drink his blood, ye have not life in yourselves. 54 He that eateth my flesh and drinketh my blood hath eternal life: and I will raise him up at the last day. 55 For my flesh is meat indeed, and my blood is drink indeed. 56 He that eateth my flesh and drinketh my blood abideth in me, and I in him. 57 As the living Father sent me, and I live because of the Father; so he that eateth me, he also shall live because of me. 58 This is the bread which came down out of heaven: not as the fathers ate, and died; he that eateth this bread shall live for ever.
It is another study to say the Jews were looking for a physical kingdom and when they hear the potential Messiah one must eat His flesh and drink His blood it must have been shocking. Of course, they sternly objected. The last phrase of verse 53, “ye have not life in yourselves,” is vital. To recap, what is God’s goal in sending the Son? Read John 3:16 – “For God so loved the world, that he gave his only begotten Son, that whosoever believeth on him should not perish, but have eternal life.” Scripture interprets Scripture. Luther says, “This chapter does not speak of the bread and wine, but of spiritual eating, i.e. of the belief that Christ, both God and man, hath shed his blood for us.” We agree. We eat the flesh and drink the blood by having a faithful trust that Jesus came to die and live again that we might be with Him in Paradise.